You Are What You Wear: Why Your Closet is Killing Your Personal Brand

“Fashion says ‘me too,’ and style says, ‘only me.’

— Geraldine Stutz, President of Henri Bendel

Do you have style?

The word “style” conjures different strokes for different folks. Some live and die by style, piecing their days together with their closet first, then coffee, then work. Others roll out of bed and attack the day… in their pajamas.

So when it comes to Personal Branding, what does style have to do with it?

In a word? Everything.

As a gawky girl, raised by hard-working, self-made parents who never lived outside their means, being fashionable was always something I felt intimidated by (and didn’t care much about). Despite the fact that we lived in an affluent community, my mother taught me the value of a coupon clip — and the joyful rush of a fabulous TJ Maxx find — before she ever spoke a word about fashion designers or what it meant to dress like a lady.

As an adult, I have developed my own unique fashion sense, but I am still very much that girl who could care less about a label. It’s how I feel in the clothes. It’s how I feel about my own personal style, which translates to my Personal Brand.

Because your Personal Brand has its own label.
Knowing how you aesthetically show up in the world and owning that image is a central component in the art of standing out. But let me be clear: I am not speaking in the context of pretension, but through the lens of intention.

Forget trends. This isn’t about superficiality or falling for the newest handbag or snagging the latest hit on the runway. Fashion is simply a form of self-expression, and if you’re putting yourself in the public eye, know that people are going to pay attention.

Clothes are a form of messaging, just as a digital logo, font and a color palette announce your brand.

In Personal Branding, YOU are the primary vehicle to service your message, and it’s critical you represent the value of that message.

Whether you’re the kind of person who (like me) grew up without a fashion clue, or you were reading Vogue since you were six, as a Personal Brand, you need to find your look and rock it clearly, consistently and professionally.

But what if you really have no idea where to start? Begin by asking yourself these four questions to unearth the direction of your Personal Brand fashion aesthetic.

What makes you feel like YOU?

Look through your closet and identify some of your favorite items. What do you love about them? How do you feel when you wear them? Do the clothes you love have anything in common? Flip through photos and identify outfits where you appear confident, carefree and most of all, authentic. Now, on the flipside, do you hang onto items that don’t make you feel good? If so, ditch them immediately.

Who are you trying to reach?

It always comes back to your audience. It’s about them and how you make them feel. So ask yourself: Will these $500 booties make my audience feel alienated or related? Will this suit make my prospective client feel safe and at ease or intimidated? Be clear about the image you want to project, because it’s necessary to examine when crafting your aesthetic to your tailored audience.

What other Personal Brand styles inspire you?

Dig deep to understand your fashion inspiration. Why do these brands appeal to you? Do they make you feel comfortable, connected or seen? Perhaps Tony Robbins and his casual aesthetic empower you to dress more laid back, or Gwen Stefani’s edgy look inspires you to take more risks? What are the parallels in those you admire, and how can you draw threads of their style into your own unique approach?

What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room?

You want to stand out. You want to make a statement. You want to leave an impression. So ask yourself: What does that impression say? How can you create that message with the way you show up in the world?

While creating a Personal Brand is not just skin deep, it starts with how you feel in your own skin and projects out from there. Nail your own style aesthetic, feel good about it, and watch as your messaging becomes clearer, your brand more authentic and your audience a reflection of all that you portray.

“Not all thought leaders are style mavens, nor do they necessarily possess great beauty. But they have learned to present themselves in a way that reflects their personal and professional personality and style. They have learned to put their best foot forward within their unique and personal brand.”

— Cheryl Snapp Conner, Forbes